When I first moved into my second-year student house, after a year of living in miserable university halls with complete strangers, I was excited by the prospect of sharing with people I thought I knew relatively well. Little did I know, three weeks down the line, I would begin to wholeheartedly regret my decision and wish more than anything to be back in my own private space with the comfortable anonymity that flat sharing brings. Therefore, when the term, and indeed the year, was cut short by the overwhelmingly disruptive coronavirus pandemic, I did not share the same horror and mourning of my peers, but instead felt an intense relief that it was finally all over.
Although house sharing with friends can be great fun, and certainly less isolating than being in halls or living alone, the reality is that most living situations will end up being far from perfect. At many universities across the UK, as was the case with mine, the house hunting process can begin as early as October and is well over by the end of first time at the beginning of December. As a result, you end up choosing the people you are going to spend a year living with a mere six weeks after meeting them, not to mention the mad housing rush which makes it virtually impossible to find a property that everyone can agree on, is within a reasonable price range and close enough to campus that the new walk to class won’t be too much of a shock to the system after living practically next door to them all throughout first year. Perhaps if you get lucky and are initially allocated a flat of people that you immediately get along with, or meet some like-minded people on your course within the first few weeks, then the whole process becomes automatically less stressful. But if, like it was for me, there is no obvious group to latch onto or a particular individual you feel really passionate about sticking with, then you will most likely end up with friends of a friend or people you vaguely know but don’t necessarily have that much in common with.
For some, I am sure this works out fine, maybe even ends up being the best thing that could have happened. However, if you end up finding out that you and your new housemates are fundamentally different people, then by this point it is usually too late, as it is impossible to really know how a situation is going to turn out before you’ve actually tried it. At least in halls, where everyone has been randomly allocated a group of people who they may or may not find that they get along with, there is no responsibility on your part to try and make those people your closest friends. It is different once you have actually chosen people to live with, as you not only have to live with the regret of your decision, but also the self-loathing that comes with an awareness of not knowing yourself as well as you thought you did. Looking back, I wish I had not been so hasty in accepting the first offer I received, and instead waited to consider my options more carefully. Most likely, and I speak from experience on this one, if you do not click with a group or individual the first time you meet them, then you most likely never will. So, the safest option in this scenario is always to politely decline, a couple of weeks awkwardness if that person or group chooses to take offence at your rejection is infinitely better than the alternative.